Wednesday’s Word: Alacrity
This word signifies a willing cheerfulness, the kind that accepts burdens and blessings with equal enthusiasm. This is the kind of behavior parents wish their kids exhibited when doing their chores, that they would be tackled both briskly and happily. It’s not a word you hear very often, but then again, such behavior is hardly commonplace either. Alacrity is a breath of fresh air whenever you come across it.
When I reflect on what sort of person would exemplify this sort of irrepressible and ever-ready spirit, the first thing that comes to mind is Samwise Gamgee, from The Lord of the Rings.
Not only is Sam a stalwart and faithful companion to Frodo and the others during their quest to destroy the ring, but Sam’s loyalty and commitment are tested and pushed further than any other character in Tolkien’s story, save perhaps Frodo himself. And yet Sam never wavers, never stumbles. He’s as sure as the rising sun, as irrepressible as flowers growing in a desert wasteland. Nothing shakes his faith in his master, Frodo, or weakens his resolve to do his duty. In short, Sam is a true friend. For it is only in adversity that true friendship is revealed.
Several years ago I stumbled across a wonderful set of maxims by Kent M. Keith that capture this sort of attitude. Here are some of them:
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
It’s easy enough to travel alongside someone when the seas are calm and all is bright and beautiful. But it takes genuine strength of character to take the worst that the world has to offer and come up smiling.
And, as I mentioned above, if there is a character who exemplified these sorts of ideals in a fictional story more than Sam, I am unaware of it.
Sam said nothing… he knew that words of his were useless. And after all he never had any real hope in the affair from the beginning; but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed.
I could write so much more about Sam, but I’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, may we all take a cue from this noble little hobbit, fictional though he may be. May we approach life’s trials and temptations with alacrity and rise to the occasion just like the unflappable Mr. Gamgee.